Kink at Pride: The Ongoing Discourse That Needs to End
Every year, just as June begins to roll around, we have The Discourse. Specifically, the “Kink at Pride” Discourse, which is as tedious and uninspired as, say, listening to Republicans talk or having a Straight Pride Parade. All over social media, folks in (and out of) the LGBTQ+ community argue over exactly what Pride is all about, with some of them very clearly misunderstanding our history and the impact this month has had on our community.
So let’s discuss it.
Kink belongs at Pride because kink was there during the first Pride. While June has developed into a beautiful celebration of our visibility, dignity and selves as the queer community, it would be amiss to ignore the fact that the parade started off as a protest, and that the kink community played a huge role in organizing and participating in that protest. In fact, bisexual activist and leather fetishist Brenda Howard is known as the “Mother of Pride” for not only coordinating the first march, but also for suggesting the idea of a week-long celebration and events.
Kink at Pride is also a must because Pride is a celebration of all queer sexuality, expression and identity. The fundamental purpose of Pride is to be an inclusive event, to celebrate all people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella — not just the ones who are “palatable.” Yes, this means fetish and kink. No, this does not mean folks in leather jockstraps are going to be engaging in public sex on the streets. (Sadly, the entire world isn’t San Francisco.)
A pillar of kink is that it’s both safe and consensual. An argument kink naysayers love to make is that children who go to Pride have not consented to seeing certain outfits. However, by voluntarily showing up at an event that has historically revolved around subversive sexuality, this argument has no merit.
Pride can be many things to many people, but it is at its core about liberation, sex-positivity and visibility. Depending on the conversations you choose to have with your family, Pride can be a family event. It can be. That does not mean Pride is going to twist and regulate itself to suit your personal standards of morality.
What hurts queer youth is shame, internalized hate, lack of community/ information. And yes, predators too. But I fully believe we can make pride a SAFE space for sex-positivity and visibility. We can hold people accountable without censoring ourselves.
— Immaterial Boy (@atty_boy) May 28, 2019
Yes, minors go to Pride. No, there is nothing inherently “dirty,” “harmful” or “shameful” about the kinds of sex and sexuality that are being celebrated at Pride — and there isn’t anything particularly NC-17 happening during a Pride parade. If you’re worried about explaining sexuality to your children but don’t limit their access to things like HBO or beauty pageant contests — you might need to reassess exactly what about kink is so jarring to you, and why.
Last, kink belongs at Pride because to regulate Pride in any other way would be dangerous and damaging to all of us, but especially to those in our community who are most at risk of being overlooked and excluded because of classism, racism, fatphobia and transphobia. The desexualization of Pride could be especially harmful to sex workers, destabilizing their right to safely and happily exist in our community, and the important and valuable work they do.
The LGBTQ+ community is large, nuanced and complex. Its beauty lies in its acceptance and celebration of diversity. Many of us have felt marginalized in a society that generally values and upholds heteronormativity; and our community is the place we’ve built for ourselves to find respect, understanding and appreciation.
None of us have the right to cast one another out. To regulate Pride based on prejudice or purity standards would be an absurd misunderstanding of everything our community has fought so hard to overcome over the last century. And these are exactly the types of tactics that homophobic donors, policymakers and organizations utilize to try to infringe on our rights.
So, yes, the “Kink at Pride” Discourse needs to end. Kink belongs at Pride, and always has.
Image at top: Leo Vals/Hulton Archive via Getty Images